Sunday, January 31, 2010

Unboring: Butternut Slaw with Goat Cheese

I have, in the past, lamented on how difficult it is to make winter vegetables more....interesting. My gut reaction is to roast them with any variety of herbs and/or spices. I mean, it's good, but it can't take me though the winter feeling satisfied.

Thus, when I stumbled upon this recipe this morning, I knew what was going to be for dinner tonight. By the magic of the DVR, Tyler Florence was performing for me at my beck & call at 10 this morning as I ate my breakfast. He's so cute, isn't he?


Whoops, I digress. It was his ultimate sloppy joe episode. And, paired with the healthier-than-usual sloppy joes was a raw butternut squash slaw with a goat cheese dressing, all topped with cranberries & walnuts. Because I am a fan of all things crunchy & all things slaw, I was instantly intrigued. Plus? It was a great excuse to use the food processor I got for Christmas! Woohoo! With my street plowed and my resolve firm, I headed out to gather the necessary supplies.

This recipe definitely lived up to expectations. It's crunchy, tart, slightly sweet and nutty. The relatively small amount of goat cheese (4 oz) imparts a large amount of goat-y flavor (thus, if you do not like goat cheese, you likely will not like this...).

It also wakes me up to a whole new wintry world of slaw possibilities. I almost wonder if acorn squash would be a lovely stand-in for green papaya in Thai Papaya Salad....

Butternut Squash Coleslaw with Honey Goat Cheese Dressing
  • 4 ounces fresh creamy goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
  • Special equipment: mandoline or food processor
In a large bowl, combine goat cheese, honey, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Stir well with a whisk until fully combined and creamy. (This was more difficult than I had anticipated. With a bit of patience & perseverance, it all came together, but next time I'll probably make the dressing in the food processor & remove before I shred the squash)

Peel squash & remove seeds from the bulb portion. Using a mandoline, food processor or sharp knife, cut the peeled cylinder into fine long matchsticks (julienne). This should yield about 4 cups. Fold into the cheese dressing along with dried cranberries, walnuts and chopped fresh parsley.

Slaw with its good friend, Ultimate Sloppy Joes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

2010 Planting Calendar

Last year I planted almost everything waaaaaaaayy too early (March 7th). Especially the tomatoes. The Sungolds were flowering about 3 weeks before I could put them out! Yikes!

The average last frost date is a bit contentious for the DC area. NOAA tells me it's around April 15th. Avid gardeners with far more experience than myself tell me not to place a tomato start outside until around May 15th because of random frosts. Who to believe? Last year I only planted warm season crops around the spring time so I used the 5/15 date and had good results.

I've decided, however, this year to split the difference: use the 4/15 date as the last frost date for cool season crops (lettuces radishes, beans, kale, etc) & use 5/01 as the frost date for warm season crops (this allows tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc be put outside on 5/15). I'm going to enter these 2 dates into Skippy's Garden Spring Planting Calendar (also, check out the blog. It's full of good info!) and use the output to determine my planting times. And we'll see how it goes from there...

So, here's my 2010 Planting Plan:
-2/11 sow indoors kale, mustard greens/collards
-3/2 (or when the soil is thawed) sow outdoors arugula and radish
-3/11 transplant kale, mustard greens/collards outside, sow indoors eggplant
-3/6 sow indoors peppers, marigolds, parsley & basil
-3/20 sow indoors tomatoes and swiss chard
-4/8 sow 2nd arugula, radish and swiss chard outside
-4/13 sow indoors cucumber and summer squash
-5/1 sow outdoors nasturtiums and carrots.
-5/15 transplant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, summer squash, swiss chard and cucumbers outside

Now to go add these as appointments in my Thunderbird calendar (with 1 week reminders!).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Seed Buying 2010-style

It's that time of year again, folks: Time to purchase seeds! As a reminder, this is my current plan for my 2010 garden.

Admittedly, I'm a bit early at the start but I'm always paranoid that my favorite seeds will be sold out (and I do believe the tomato & arugula seeds I wanted to buy-- very specific varieties-- are sold out). This year I am all over Southern Exposure Seeds & Seed Saver's Exchange. I heard about Southern Exposure when I attended a "Raising Winter Greens" seminar. It's awesome because many of the seeds they carry are known to thrive in my area, plus many are organic and come from small farmers and seed savers. I wanted to buy from Seed Saver's Exchange last year but, um, I couldn't figure out how to buy from them. I must have been tired or something because their website is quite easy to use...I have no idea what my problem was last year!

Here's what's on tap for this year. From Southern Exposure Seeds:
Eggplant: Early Black Egg & Ping Tung Long
Mustard greens: New Star Mustard
Swiss chard: Ruby Red
Sweet Peppers: Tequila Sunrise
Zucchini: Dark Green
Ground cherries: Cossack Pineapple
Pickling cucumber: Edmonson
Total: $24.10

From Seed Saver's Exchange:
Cucumber: Mexican Sour Gherkin
Tomatoes: Sheboygan & Stupice
Total: $8.25

Plus...a garlic mix I bought in the fall ($22.50...I know, pricey but I should have to buy garlic "seed" again! Just replant cloves I've grown!) brings my grand total on seeds this year to




This doesn't even include the Yellow Potato Onion multiplier onion I want to order in the fall (at $11+ but I won't need to buy onion "seeds" again either). I'm not sure my thyme is doing so well so I'll probably need to buy more of that again...another expense.

Clearly, seeds really add up. I'm rather confident I'll get at least $54.85 worth of organic veggies out of the garden this year; I mean, it's easy to get $20 worth of herbs out of the garden! The initial outlay is not cheap. This is why, for me, gardening is much more of a hobby than a way to really save money on groceries. Even buy starting most of my vegetables from seed, it's still not cheap!

I am also going to attempt to use the rest of the following seeds I bought last year. Perhaps unfairly, I am going to exempt this cost from this year's garden. For one thing, it would be too time consuming to figure out how much I used last year and for another, I don't want to hunt down the original prices I paid:

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
Thai Dragon Hot Peppers
Thai Basil
Red Rubin Basil
Unwin's Dalhias
a few kinds of kohlrabi
French Breakfast Radish
and several kinds of marigolds & nasturtiums

However, there are lots of seed (an embarrassing amount actually) I either bought & never used or used but didn't quite work out. I will be handing these out to friends to hope they can find a good home!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winter Vegetables Are Boring?

I confess, I really enjoy summer vegetables best. You don't need to cook them (in fact, many are better raw) and they are just so crunchy and juicy and fantastic. I mean, I know I complained about having too many tomatoes but now I can't imagine how that would be possible!

Making winter vegetables interesting is a bit more of a challenge. There is of course the oven roasting. I definitely enjoy a mixed roast vegetable dish made with olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe some thyme or rosemary. I've also used cumin or chili powder on occasion or tossed the veg, while still warm, with a vinaigrette. A lemon vinaigrette works especially nice on roasted broccoli. But despite these variations, I long for the variation that you get with the summer cousins.

So, I've made an effort to seek out unusual (at least for me) ways to use the typical winter vegetables: Dark leafy greens, winter squash, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, turnips and other root crops. Below are some interesting recipes or ideas that have spiced things up.

Dark, Leafy Greens
(Collards, mustards, turnip, and asian greens. The "usual" is making these southern style or cooked with beans)

Oven roasted kale
: I haven't tried this one yet, but if it's anything like the crispy spinach at Rasika, I bet it's fabulous!

Mustard green gratin
: A hearty way to get in the green stuff.

Stir-fried chinese broccoli
: I love ordering this when we go from dim sum. It makes me feel better about consuming an additional pork bun! You could do this with any asian green.

Winter Squash
(Butternut, acron, spaghetti, etc. The "usual" is roasting or steaming or soup)

Butternut squash & sage risotto
: I've already blogged about this, but it's worth repeating!

Thai curry with acorn squash & asian greens: This recipe is good as-is, but I often modify by using what I have on hand which is usually chicken stock, chicken, and leave out the lime leaves (sometimes putting in lime zest).

Root Vegetables
(Carrots, potatoes, turnips, etc. The "usual" is roasted mixed veg, mashed potatoes or baked potatoes)

Carrot salad with cumin: I had this at a restaurant that added dried currants. Delicious and light.

Warm sweet potato salad with chorizo: I just found this recipe from the WaPo. I'm thinking it would be a delicious lunch all by itself...

Broccoli & Cauliflower
(The "usual" is steamed or roasted.)

Aloo gobi: Curried cauliflower and potatoes. You could use turnips too.

Cream of broccoli soup
: Um, a little cream never hurt anyone, right?!?

What do you do with your winter vegetables?

Announcement: BIG, New Project

As alluded to in a prior post, I've had something exciting in the works for some time. And by exciting, I mean life altering: The Dirty Radish is having a baby.

Behold! Sprout doing a ninja kick!

The lack of posting lately has not only been driven by the weather but also my need to take a nap as often as possible. It's been interesting growing Sprout (as we affectionately call the thing growing in my womb). There are lots of similarities to growing a plant & growing a human. I mean, if you're using a seed, it's both sexual reproduction. But there are some key & important differences that have made growing a human far, far more difficult that growing a plant. These include:
  1. The "germination" period for a human is much longer than your typical vegetable or flower seed.
  2. Growing plants doesn't make me tired, sick, repulsed by the very thought of food (and thus, veggie gardening) or craving papaya salad. Or fat, for that matter. Growing plants usually relaxes me and makes me lose weight from all the shoveling, carrying heavy buckets of mulch/compost, etc.
  3. You can take a break from growing plants or hand over responsibilities such as watering to someone else (like my husband). But, as the knocked up female, I cannot give away the responsibilities for incubating this spawn. And the symptoms listed in #2 make it very tempting to want to do so.
  4. Have I mentioned how tired I get?
  5. Growing plants does not make my hair look this good. So lovely & shiny!
However, it's all still very exciting. I mean, terrifyingly exciting. There's still that anticipation of "Did it work?" (and you know what I mean by "it"...). At this point, it's pretty clear "it" did as I'm firmly planted in the second trimester. Now, my husband & I are both wondering "What *is* it?" just like if a friend gave you some seeds they had saved but not labeled. Luckily, we are 100% sure this is a Homo sapien but the exact variety (ahem, gender) remains unknown! Also there is the "When is it going to come out?" question. Right now my due date is July 8th, but we shall see if Sprout is punctual (like its mother) or a bit tardy (like its father).

As this is a gardening blog, I promise to keep the nastiness that I hear pregnancy becomes away but I cannot promise that future photos of a baby dressed up as a little peapod or ladybug or bunny or, um, a radish won't pop up every now and again in the rapidly approaching future. You've been warned...